Archives for posts with tag: managing grief

Five weeks, two days

I spent the day yesterday with my mom. It’s been decades since we spent time the way we did. I think it was because I knew I only had myself to worry about. So we sat and talked for a couple of hours over coffee. We had lunch. Then we made our way to the garden shop to buy geraniums and hostas. And while she had a nap, I planted the flowers for her. No rush. No feeling that I had to be somewhere else. We even went out to dinner. It gave both of us a great deal of joy.

This was a reawakened experience for me. Mom and I used to hang out for hours like that, before I was living with Ray, before I had children, a real job — when life was less complicated, I guess. I didn’t know what I was missing. I’d forgotten this lovely aspect of my life and I’m enjoying the thought of having it back. It takes more time now, as mom has Alzheimer’s, but I had the time yesterday and we luxuriated in it.

Note to self…I can have my old life back to a certain extent. I can remember the times I walked down 41st Avenue after school and bought my Mom a single bloom and took it home to make her smile. I had no one to think about but me and Mom. And life can turn circles on itself, and you can rediscover past happiness. It doesn’t mean that I’ve let Ray go, but that I am a whole person, still. That is reassuring. I am rediscovering me.

5 weeks to the day

My emptiness is like a belly full of drying leaves, all crunchy and dry. It’s not just a hole, it’s a smouldering, angry space.

I went to physiotherapy today and while I lay on the heat packs, I listened to Snatam Kaur on my iPhone. I began to weep. It just happened. I can be fine one minute and not the next. The lack of Ray is hard to describe. It is always there to some degree, sometimes right in my face, sometimes just a nagging feeling in the back of my head. It keeps me in the moment. I can’t really look further than about 20 feet or 20 minutes ahead.

I am attempting to fill the emptiness with busyness. There is lots of work work for me right now. My office is busier than it’s been in a couple of years. When you’re self-employed you work when you have the work. You never know what you’ll have next month. I also have the job of keeping myself healthy right now. I need to concentrate on eating and exercising to keep endorphins flowing and my body working. I just plug things in my schedule and move from task to task hoping it will make a difference.

But I am missing a big chunk of me that was sewn tightly to my soulmate for 35 years. It’s not that I’m not a whole person. But like a companion tree planted right beside me, Ray shared the ground we both grew in and we became a matched pair. With him no longer there, my balance is off. The light seems different. The lack of him feels raw and foreign. I guess that is what healing is about —letting things close up and knit back together. I know it will happen.

Four weeks, six days

I knew Ray would die. Everybody says, “Oh, you could be crossing the street tomorrow and…”, but that’s not really the point, is it?

When someone you love has cancer, there is, suspended in air, a shoe. The first one hits the floor at the moment you hear the diagnosis. Cancer. The second one hangs there…

I stood, rigid, for I don’t know how long while a hotshot young GI specialist doing an ERCP poked around with a probe down Ray’s gut fishing for what he was looking for. He knew all along that he would find an adenocarcinoma. I was standing right outside the door. I heard every word. While he poked around — Ray moaning in discomfort the whole time, and the nurse telling him to hold still — the doctor talked to his team about his weekend. Workaday stuff this was for him. Afterwards he swaggered out and said, “yep, it’s cancer”.

Here’s the thing. No one had had the cahones to tell me that they suspected cancer, not the GP, or the phalanx of emergency doctors to which he sent us. They all kind of hoped someone else would do it. So this guy threw it at me like yesterday’s news. I remember the cool wall touching my back as I sunk into it. I remember thinking I needed to get to Ray. I remember hating that cold-hearted SOB for not even considering the human element in this equation. He gave it to me like an invoice for a car repair.

I didn’t know the first thing about pancreatic cancer. As knowledgable as I am about human anatomy, I wasn’t entirely sure what a pancreas did. I learned most of it within 48 hours. And I wept. Pancreatic cancer takes no prisoners. Most die within a year. The 5-year survival rate is under 5%. I remember calling my son and daughter, even less prepared for this, to tell them their dad had cancer. I had so much trouble forming the words. Who the hell knows how you are supposed to do this?

There is an epic story that follows this event which I will get to at some point in this blog, but my point tonight is that it is somewhat bizarre knowing you’re living with the love of your life while they are dying faster than you had expected. You don’t know how fast, or how it will all happen, but you can pretty much count on not having those halcyon days of sweet retirement together. That home looking over the vineyards in the Okanagan where we would enjoy the hot sun and play with our grandchildren — not happening. It’s blunt. It’s cruel. You know that other shoe will drop. It hangs there…suspended…waiting.

Twenty-seven days

Although this seems “sound”, I don’t know if it is is the secret to getting me on the road to normalcy, but it seems like a good idea. I plugged some routine tasks and some exercise blocks into my iCal yesterday. There was an exercise block for 8 am this morning. I didn’t quite make 8 am, but I was in the gym by 9:15. I did my half hour of cardio and some lower body strength exercises. My shoulders are “in treatment” now, so I did the little exercises the physio gave me yesterday. I’m not a regular gym person. I’ve tried for years to stick with it but I always fall off the wagon. At this point, though, I think I need to be a bit more disciplined as it’s not just a “nice to have”. I think it’s critical.

I won’t lie. I didn’t love it, but at points during the walking I pushed my speed up because it felt good to lengthen my leg muscles and stretch out. I also felt really good about doing it even though I hadn’t wanted to. At this point, I’m operating on logic, not instinct. My instinct tells me to stay in bed and be extra nice to myself, but I know that the endorphins that exercise provides will help lift me up. I have a lunch meeting today with a friend/client I enjoy, so that’s another thing to look forward to.

Which brings me back to my iCal. It’s a framework for real life. I can look at the day or the week and see these little rocks and branches I can hang onto in the middle of my swim up river. The more tasks I plug in, the more secure I feel. I wouldn’t recommend booking yourself solidly, unless you do that kind of work. I’m in the “creative” industry. I think for a living, so sometimes I need to leave myself long empty blocks of several hours to do that thinking. If this is the kind of work you do, you need to do that as well.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how this framework works for me.

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